It’s the end of the year so I’m going to talk about some of my favourite reads of 2021. I managed to read 68 books and I enjoyed most of them so it was difficult to narrow down a list of just ten amazing books. These won’t be listed in a particular order.
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
This is one of the best crime novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s written mostly in email format, with a few text messages and audio footage too. The reader is able to solve the crime at the same time as the characters working on a court case appeal. I was so gripped by this unique book I read it in one day.
Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.
Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.
Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.
Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
I love all of Angie Thomas’ books so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed Concrete Rose too. This sequel to The Hate U Give manages to give an insight into Maverick’s life as he navigates his teenage years, away from life in a local gang, as he enters fatherhood. This is an interesting read that gives even more depth to his family history. The author always manages to write really authentic family relationships that I enjoy reading.
With his King Lord dad in prison and his mom working two jobs, seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter helps the only way he knows how: slinging drugs. Life’s not perfect, but he’s got everything under control. Until he finds out he’s a father…
Suddenly it’s not so easy to deal drugs and finish school with a baby dependent on him for everything. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. But when King Lord blood runs through your veins, you don’t get to just walk away.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I was really nervous to read this one as it’s so hyped but it was well worth the read. I definitely preferred the second part of the novel as the pace picked up a lot more than the start, but overall it was fantastic especially Kya’s character development. The writing in this book is really beautiful too and the more I read the more difficult it was to put down. There’s a murder mystery at the heart of the story and the outcome did not disappoint.
For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
The only bad thing I have to say about this novel is I wish there was more of it. The writing is stunning and I thought the book overall was a refreshing and insightful read. There’s a love story at the heart of the story but it’s not as simple as having a happy ending or a normal relationship. I also enjoyed reading about the artistic passions (art and dance) of the main characters as they navigated their way through their adult lives as black British people trying to make it in their respective career paths.
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
I loved how this book showed two sides of why a relationship ended. It’s told from two different perspectives, jumping from Addie to Dylan’s narration in every other chapter. It also jumped from past to present showing how far they had come since they had last seen each other. I liked this a lot more than a lot of other rom-com books I’ve read this year, mainly because there was a lot of depth especially with regards to why the characters ended their relationship. I also loved the humour in this novel.
Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.
But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.
Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four-hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…
Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly, is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado Perez
This was a really informative read looking at how the world is built in a way that neglects women – from the safety of a car seat belt to the medication we take. Even as someone who is aware of a lot of unfairness and inequality in the world, I was shocked to read some of the facts in this book. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about these issues. I think it’s an important read.
Imagine a world where…
· Your phone is too big for your hand
· Your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body
· In a car accident you are 47% more likely to be injured.
If any of that sounds familiar, chances are you’re a woman.
From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, and the media. Invisible Women reveals how in a world built for and by men we are systematically ignoring half of the population, often with disastrous consequences. Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the profound impact this has on us all.
Discover the shocking gender bias that affects our everyday lives.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
I’ve not loved many young adult books this year but this one blew me away. I thought it was a realistic representation of how difficult teenage years can be, especially with the pressures of exams. One of my favourite things about this novel is the relationship between Frances and Aled. The fact it’s a platonic friendship between a man and woman was nice to see and quite unusual but satisfying nonetheless.
What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
As Good as Dead by Holly Jackson
Holly Jackson can do no wrong in my eyes. Her books are phenomenal and this third and final instalment in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder was a fantastic way to end the trilogy. I might even go as far as saying this is my favourite book of hers so far. This one felt more grown up, as we see Pip mature as the books progress. By this third book, she’s an adult herself, about to head to university. The twists and turns in this book were incredibly gripping and I was shocked by some of the things that happen in the plot, but in a good way!
Pip is used to online death threats, but there’s one that catches her eye, someone who keeps asking: who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? And it’s not just online. Pip has a stalker who knows where she lives. The police refuse to act and then Pip finds connections between her stalker and a local serial killer. The killer has been in prison for six years, but Pip suspects that the wrong man is behind bars. As the deadly game plays out, Pip realises that everything in Little Kilton is finally coming full circle. If Pip doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears . . .
Luster by Raven Leilani
This was another one of those books that surprised me as I wasn’t expecting to be as enthralled as I was by the characters and their ways of living, from open relationships to racial divides. I don’t think this is a very plot centred book, as it’s very character driven, but the main character is intriguing to read about, as are the people she surrounds herself with.
Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
If anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this is the one I will always give. It’s become one of my favourite books of all time! I love Evelyn Hugo and her life story so much that it’s almost hard to believe she’s a fictional character. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing is immersive and beautifully addictive. I love the LGBTQ+ representation in this book as well as all the friendships and relationships that make up the life of Evelyn Hugo. Even though the book is fiction, it’s really interesting to read about Hollywood and the lengths people used to have to go to in order to succeed.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
What was your favourite book of 2021? Are any of them on my list? Let me know by commenting below.
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